Harlem Renaissance

The following notes will help you prepare for questions about the Harlem Renaissance on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • The migration of African Americans to the North was largely fueled by the danger and lack of equal opportunities in the South. Jim Crow laws made segregation legal and few law enforcement officials made any attempt to investigate the lynchings that took the lives of thousands of blacks living in the South. Still, most northerners were not welcoming, either. Many African Americans found themselves relegated to some of the most rundown urban areas, such as Harlem in New York City.

  • The Harlem Renaissance was a time of great literary and artistic achievement for African Americans. While it was centered in Harlem, the movement was not limited to New York. African Americans expressed themselves through art, music, literature, and even in the way they dressed. True to the name "renaissance," it was a rebirth in the pride of one's race and culture. The movement was at its height in the 1920s but lasted into the Great Depression.

Back to Africa Movement : encouraged African Americans to return to the land of their ancestors and go to Africa, rejecting their poor treatment in the U.S.

Cotton Club : white-owned jazz club in New York featuring African American entertainers

"The Crisis" : militant magazine about African American civil rights; official magazine of the NAACP

Great Migration : the mass migration of African Americans away from the South to escape Jim Crow and find better opportunities in the North

Harlem : primarily African American neighborhood in New York City; focal point of the Harlem Renaissance

jazz : form of music that began in the U.S., noted for its use of improvisation; to some, it represented a rejection of European classical music; popular with whites and blacks

The Savoy : large and elegant ballroom and dance club in Harlem; many famous dance crazes launched here, including the Lindy Hop

zoot suit : suit featuring oversized jacket and pants that are wide at the knees and pegged at the ankles; a fashion statement for African American men


Duke Ellington : jazz musician who gained fame leading his orchestra at the Cotton Club

Marcus Garvey : founder of the Back to Africa Movement

Zora Neale Hurston : anthropologist and author; wrote "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Langston Hughes : author of the Harlem Renaissance; said he wrote literature and poetry that was intended to uplift African Americans

Related Links:
AP US History : The West Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
Harlem Renaissance Timeline
Harlem Renaissance Timeline
Langston Hughes Timeline
History Timelines
Langston Hughes Quiz
Jeffersonian and Jacksonian America